New venue for the Players Championship 2020

This the announcement made by Worldsnooker today:

Southport will host a snooker world ranking event for the first time early next year when the Coral Players Championship comes to the town.

The event will run from February 24th to March 1st in 2020 at the Southport Waterfront. Tickets for all three Coral Series events will be on sale soon.

The Coral Players Championship features the leading 16 players on snooker’s one-year ranking list. Ronnie O’Sullivan won the title last season, beating Neil Robertson in the final. The match had a memorable finish as O’Sullivan made the 1,000th century break of his career in the last frame.

Other top stars in the field last season, when the event was staged in Preston, included Judd Trump, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Mark Allen, Neil Robertson and Mark Williams.

The one-year ranking list started at the Riga Masters last July, and the cut-off point for the Coral Players Championship is the Shoot Out which finishes on February 23rd. The top 16 on the list at that point go through to Southport.

The 16 players will start in a seeded draw, with a knockout format. All matches will be best of 11 frames, until the final which is best of 19.

It’s the second of three events in the Coral Series, preceded by the 32-man Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham (February 3-9) and followed by the eight-man Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno (March 17-22). The player earning the most money across the series will receive the Coral Cup and a £100,000 bonus. All three events are televised live by ITV.

Total prize money in Southport will be £385,000 with the winner to receive £125,000.

A spokesman for World Snooker said: “We are very excited about bringing this prestigious tournament to Merseyside for the first time. We know there’s a lot of support for snooker in the area so we’re expecting big crowds, and once tickets are on sale fans must get them booked early as many of the sessions will sell out.

“The Southport Waterfront is a fantastic venue in a beautiful location on England’s North West coast. It’s will be a superb stage for snooker’s biggest names.

“The Coral Players Championship will bring together 16 of the best players on the planet. The great thing about the Coral Series is that all 128 tour players begin the season on zero as they start the race to qualify for the three lucrative events. So only those in form make it into the elite field.

“That race is well underway now and it will be fascinating to see whether all of the big names make it to Southport, or whether we get new faces and outsiders earning a place in the line-up.

“For fans in the area it’s fabulous news as it’s a chance to see live sport at its very best, and the value for money is exceptional.”

Emma Lloyd, Head of Creative for Waterfront Southport said: “This is huge for the venue and the town. We are delighted to be working with the team at World Snooker to bring it to the Waterfront and we hope it’s the start of a great working relationship. The North West is known for its love of snooker and Southport is no different!”

Ticket details will be announced as soon as they are available.

Ronnie will be the defending champion but this is of course no guarantie that he will qualify for it … he needs some ranking points mate!


China Championship 2019 – Day 4 – Last 16

This is Worldsnooker report on what happened today in Guangzhou

Joe Perry ended World Champion Judd Trump’s 15-match win streak in ranking competition, beating him 5-2 in the last 16 of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Victory for Perry puts him in line for a potential return to the world’s top 16, unless results go against him in the remainder of the tournament. Perry has now edged ahead of Ali Carter in the provisional rankings for the end of this week.

World number one Trump’s incredible winning run at ranking events comes to an end. The 15 matches extended back to April’s China Open, when he lost in the last 64 to Robbie Williams. It encompassed tournament victories at the World Championship and the International Championship.

That International Championship win included an impressive 6-2 defeat of Perry. However, it was the Gentleman who turned the tables on his opponent today.

Perry took the opener with a break of 89 and had looked set to go 2-0 up before missing a black off the spot on 59. That afforded Trump the opportunity to steal the frame. He obliged on the final black with a break of 60.

Trump then moved to the front with a sublime century run of 102, but Perry wasn’t deterred and took the fourth frame to go into the mid-session level at 2-2.

It was 45-year-old Perry who played the more composed snooker when they returned. He claimed a further three frames in a row, including a break of 92, to get himself over the line for a 5-2 win.

Perry said: “He is the man you don’t want to play at the moment. He is in tremendous form. I played him in Daqing and he absolutely wiped the floor with me and pretty much the rest of the field. I am delighted to come through.

“He is doing it in style as well. He isn’t just creeping over the line. You are going to be in for a hell of a tussle when you play him. He wasn’t at his best today, but I still knew I couldn’t afford to make to many mistakes if I was going to win.”

Next up Perry will face Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in the quarter-finals. Vafaei overcame Scotland’s Anthony McGill 5-4 to reach the last eight of a ranking event for a fifth time.

McGill had led 4-3 this afternoon, but Vafaei edged a narrow eighth frame to force a decider. He then composed a break of 81 to reach the quarters.

Norway’s Kurt Maflin produced a five-frame burst to stun four-time World Champion John Higgins and come through with a 5-3 victory.

Maflin has enjoyed a successful start to the campaign, having already reached the semi-finals at the Riga Masters.

Higgins had established  a 3-0 lead, but it was from that position that Maflin stormed to the finish line. He compiled breaks of 60, 82 and 103 on his way to the 5-3 win.

Maflin said: “I have so much respect for John. He is one of my idols and is unbelievable as a player and a person. It just felt great beating him.

“This is the best start to a season I have ever had. I am here to win the event at the end of the day. If I play my best snooker I think I have a chance of that.”

Maflin will face an in-form Shaun Murphy up next. The Magician booked his place in the last eight with a 5-3 defeat of Matthew Selt.

Three-time World Champion Mark Williams recorded a 5-1 demolition of Belgium’s Luca Brecel. He will play David Gilbert tomorrow, who beat Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham 5-2.

Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins will do battle in the quarter-finals. Selby recorded a 5-2 win against Chris Wakelin. While Hawkins came through a deciding frame to beat China’s 22-year-old Zhao Xintong 5-4.

A very poor wifi signal meant that I didn’t watch much at all of the action.

Judd Trump’s defeat doesn’t come as a big surprise to me though. From the way he played in Shanghai, and in earlier rounds this week, it was clear that he wasn’t in the form that allowed him to win the 2019 World Championship and the 2019 International Championship. That’s only normal. Form comes and goes, unless the player isn’t human. Also, Joe Perry is a very experienced hard match player, typically the type that could frustrate someone like Judd, especially if he’s struggling a bit.

The above report claims that Mark Williams “demolished” Luca Brecel. The score is extremely severe indeed, but the frame scores show a slightly different picture. Of the five frames that Willo won, only one was won with a big break. In two occasions Mark managed to win after Luca had previously made a break over 50. This suggests that the match was much closer than the scoreline shows.

I’m very happy to see Kurt Maflin playing well. He’s a very high scorer and very entertaining to watch when on form. It’s not often that John Higgins loses a best of 9, after leading 3-0 with breaks of 106, 58 and 82. Actually it’s a bit baffling. I can only imagine that Kurt suddenly found his potting boots and kept John cold in his chair for long enough to completely break his rhythm.

The above report just mentions that Barry Hawkins beat Zhao Xintong in a decider.That doesnt tell the whole story. Barry was 3-0 up and and Zhao fought really hard and came back to 3-3, and 4-4. Against a hard match player like Barry this is not easy to do and shows how much Zhao has matured as a player.

Mark Selby’s 5-2 win looks comfortable, yet this match was lenghty. Both players shot times firmly on the slow side. So it was probably quite tactical. And there was a “free ball” situation that required Jan Verhaas intervention as well as an interpreter to allow proper communication with the referee… in the end, Mark was awarded the free ball, took it and missed it. Typical.

European Series Announced

This was announced by Worldsnooker today

London/Gibraltar, 26 September 2019

BetVictor, a leading global gambling company, is sponsoring four world ranking events on snooker’s global tour this season, creating the brand-new BetVictor European Series. The new series sees the World Snooker Tour’s overall prize money increase to a record level of approximately £15 million.

The four tournaments are:

• 2020 BetVictor European Masters, January 20-26, Austria
• 2020 BetVictor German Masters, January 29 to February 2, Berlin, Germany
• 2020 BetVictor Shoot Out – February 20-23, Watford, England
• 2020 BetVictor Gibraltar Open – March 13-15, Gibraltar

A unique ranking list will run throughout these events, with the player earning the most money across the BetVictor European Series receiving a bonus of £150,000.

Top prizes have also been increased:

• BetVictor European Masters: £80,000 to the winner (up from last season’s £75,000)
• BetVictor Shoot Out: £50,000 to the winner and £20,000 to the runner-up (up from last season’s £32,000 and £16,000)
• BetVictor Gibraltar Open: £50,000 to the winner and £20,000 to the runner-up (up from last season’s £25,000 and £12,000)

These additions bring the total prize money for the 2019-20 season to £14,641,000.

Barry HearnWorld Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to announce the new BetVictor European Series, a fabulous addition to our tour. The race to win the series and earn a huge bonus of £150,000 adds an extra element of intrigue throughout the four events. Each event is superb in its own right, but the support BetVictor brings takes it all to a new level and ties them together into a distinctive series.

“I would love to see a few players in the mix with the chance to win the bonus going into the last tournament in Gibraltar, that would bring a thrilling conclusion to the series. For the players it’s an extra incentive to get their name down for these events and make sure they have the chance to boost their prize money in dramatic fashion.”

Director of Sportsbook at BetVictor, Matt Scarrott, added: “We have a strong relationship with World Snooker having partnered with them on a number of events and I’m confident that this brand-new series will add to World Snooker’s international success.

“The global growth in the sport’s popularity is a testament of the fantastic work World Snooker have been developing over recent years, and we’re delighted to be part of this successful journey. We’re particularly proud to see the last of the European Series tournament take place in Gibraltar – home to BetVictor.”

I have very mixed feelings about this.

The positives are:

  • The European Masters will definitely take place with decent albeit not outstanding prize money. It will be in Austria, a new place for a ranking event.
  • The Gibraltar Open profile is raised offering a better opportunity to low ranked players to get some earning.

The negatives are:

  • Two of those “European” venues are in fact British territory: Watfort and Gibraltar.
  • Raising the profile and money of the Shootout is just an attempt to force more top players to enter an event that mainly suits the bookies.
  • The sponsor is again a bookie. I think I’ve expressed my sentiment about that situation often enough. They have only be reinforced by this very recent article. This will backfire badly and sooner than most expect.
  • The £150 000 bonus is another way to try to force top players to enter events they wouldn’t normally enter. It’s also a way to artificially raise the profile of the sport by claiming that there is a lot of money to be made in it. That’s again a major theme of the article above. Yes, there is decent money … for a very small group of players. Most struggle badly to make a living out of it. Compared to other sports, snooker is nowhere. Ronnie has won about £11000000 in his 27+ years of career. Djokovic has earned over $135000000 in his 16 years of career. Lewis Hamilton season’s salary in £40000000, salary means guaranteed money win or lose. The “top 10” best paid NBA  players all have a salary over $33000000 … and I’m not even mentioning the personal sponsors.

Snooker is better now than it was under Sir Rodney, no question, but it’s relying way too much – in fact almost exclusively – on an industry that is at best very questionable and may well collapse if stricter legislation comes into force.

More money for snooker is of course a good thing, but this money is – again – going to the ones who already earn the most of it. If the sport wants to attract young talents – and the support of their parents –  it needs to show that players can make a living out of the sport and not just the very top ones. No sport can rely on just a handful of exponents, who, BTW, won’t be there forever. The players further down must be able to earn enough to live decently. It’s not “rewarding mediocracy”, it’s investing in development for the future. Showing off about how much the very top earn may get young people dreaming, but that’s just the start. If they pursue their dream, they must be able to put bread on the table and pay their bills otherwise their dreams will be shortlived. That’s the reality of life.

If REALLY Barry Hearn wants to develop snooker in Europe, he will need to distance himself a bit from the betting companies and invest time, money and efforts into a market that is different from both the UK one and the Asian one. If 3-cushions in 2012 managed to get the backing of the Diamond industry in Antwerp for their World Championship, surely finding European sponsors isn’t impossible provided the right image is built?


Ronnie has entered the English Open 2019

This was published by Worldsnooker today

The line-up of players for next month’s English Open is now complete, with crowd favourites Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump in the field.

The tournament at K2 Crawley runs from October 14 to 20 with 128 players all starting in a flat draw. It’s the first Home Nations event of the season, followed by tournaments in Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff, with a £1 million bonus available for any player who can win all four.

Tickets are ON SALE NOW and fans are strongly urged to book quickly because sessions will sell out now that the line-up has been released. The draw and format will be announced next week.

The best players on the planet will be heading for Sussex, including:

Five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan

Current world number one and World Champion Judd Trump

16-time ranking event winner Neil Robertson

Three-time Crucible king Mark Williams

Defending champion Stuart Bingham

Three-time World Champion Mark Selby

Snooker legend Jimmy White

Former Masters champion Mark Allen

2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy

China’s top player Ding Junhui

Sussex’s top players Mark Davis and Jimmy Robertson

A spokesman for World Snooker said: “It’s an incredibly strong field and it’s going to be a fantastic experience for the fans who are lucky enough to get a ticket to watch it live.

“The coveted Steve Davis Trophy is up for grabs as well as a top prize of £70,000, and the winner will go to the second Home Nations event in Northern Ireland dreaming of the massive £1 million bonus.

“For anyone who loves live sport this is an opportunity not to be missed. Tickets start at just £10 and there are up to nine matches in a single session so fans can see a wide range of players. The experience of watching snooker live cannot be beaten.”

Special offers include all-day tickets for students for £8 and an event pass for every session of the tournament for just £160.

For details CLICK HERE or call 0871 620 7052.

The Home Nations events are televised on Eurosport and Quest.

This might not come as unexpected to most of you, but I wasn’t sure. Why? Because Ronnie absolutely hated the Crawley venue last season – the one that smelled of urine remember? – and Mark Williams has hinted on twitter that he won’t enter.

Ding entering is a surprise … and he’s no more China’s top player.


China Championship 2019 – Day 3 – Last 32

The last 32 day started rather as most expected, with the higher seeds winning most matches.

Screenshot 2019-09-25 at 18.27.55

Zhou Yuelong should have won the first frame really and probably would have if it had not been for an outrageous fluke from Judd Trump. He actually was first in in most frames but couldn’t take his chances and didn’t get the run of the balls either. I didn’t see the last frame, or any other morning action.

The afternoon (in Europe) session was quite different, bringing its fair share of unexpected results

ChinaChampionship2019-L32results Neil Robertson withdrew at the MSI, feeling unwell.

Noppon Saengkham, Hossein Vafaei, Anthony McGill and Chris Wakelin were all surprise winners, although, to be fair Yan Bingtao had struggled in his previous rounds wins so him losing today wasn’t totally unexpected.

Mark Williams was 4-0 up on Luo Honghao who made a fight of it after the MSI. Towards the end of the match both players looked very nervous and error prone. No shot was straightforward anymore. Mark fell over the line somehow.

Zhao Xintong looks a different player this season, much more mature and proved his quality again by beating Xia Guodong this afternoon.

Yan Bingtao, despite losing today, is safe in the top 16, unless Luca Brecel, Matthew Selt, Noppon Saengkham or Anthony McGill win the tournament AND Joe Perry reaches the semi finals. That’s a big ask, but not impossible; Luca has won this event before. Joe Perry faces Judd Trump tomorrow. A win for Joe in the last 16 would see him get past Ali Carter, and enter the top 16.

Here is the report by Worldsnooker

World Champion Judd Trump won his 15th consecutive ranking event match, whitewashing Zhou Yuelong 5-0 to reach the last 16 of the Evergrande China Championship.

The Ace in the Pack’s undefeated streak extends back to the China Open in April, when he lost against Robbie Williams. Since then he has won both the World Championship and the International Championship.

Trump put on a ruthless showing this evening as he brushed Zhou aside in just an hour and 15 minutes. He fired in breaks of 69, 121, 69 and 51 on his way to victory. It’s a second straight whitewash win for Trump and he has only dropped one frame so far this week.

World number one Trump said: “He is a very tough player so I’m really happy to get the win. He played a lot better than the scoreline. He was unlucky in the first three frames. On another day he could have been 3-0 up.

“I didn’t feel very confident out there. It is very hard to play well all the time. A couple of times today he opened the balls, didn’t end on anything and just left me straight in so I didn’t have to work too hard.”

Defending champion Mark Selby continued to show signs of a return to his best form after an impressive showing helped him beat Martin Gould 5-2.

The Jester from Leicester compiled breaks of 58, 60, 79 and 122 to secure the victory. He now faces Chris Wakelin in the last 16.

Neil Robertson was forced to retire due to illness at 3-1 down against Matthew Selt, resulting in a 5-1 win for the Englishman. Robertson conceded match after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Selt will now face an in-form Shaun Murphy in the last 16 after the Magician conjured another impressive performance to beat Ryan Day 5-3. While last year’s runner-up John Higgins battled past Li Hang to emerge with a 5-3 victory.

David Gilbert remains in the hunt for a maiden ranking title after defeating 2003 UK Champion Matthew Stevens 5-2. Next up Gilbert will face Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham, who beat Mark Allen 5-4.

China Championship 2019 – Day 2

The last 64 round concluded in Guangzhou today and, just like yesterday, most matches went as you would expect, the highest seeded player winning. Not all of them though.

Luo Honghao defeated Ricky Walden, by 5-4, in a match that had four centuries – two each – and a 98. That’s not really a shock. The match was close obviously and Luo is a very good young player.

The other lower seeded player to get a win was Zhao Xintong, who defeated Ding Junhui by 5-3. It is the first time that Zhao manages to beat Ding and it’s far from being inconsequential. Indeed, today’s defeat means that Ding now drops out of the top 16, and that Yan Bingtao, provisionally up to n°15, becomes the Chinese n°1. Psychologically, this may be important. It may take a burden off Ding’s shoulders … or it may push him even more into negativity, only time will tell. But for the young Chinese, it’s a sign that, yes, they can do it. It may definitively break that invisible but very real barrier that holds them back when playing their national hero. I was impressed by Zhao today. The way he won the first frame, needing snookers, was a telling moment. He wasn’t faultless, there were still rash shots and unexpected misses, but overall he looked more mature, more solid, more adult.

Regarding Ding … the mathematician in me can’t help but notice what is at best a very strange statistical anomaly. Ding has played 9 matches in main tour events this season, not counting the six-reds World Championship. On 5 out 9 occasions, his opponent was another Chinese player. Had he won today, his next opponent would have been Xiao Guodong… bringing that stat to 6 in 10. Now there are 23 Chinese players on the tour, Ding included., that’s 22 possible Chinese opponents out of 127 in total. Even taking into account the fact that most are young and low ranked, therefore more likely to face him – top 64 – in early rounds,  anything above 3 in 10 in a quasi-random draw is a statistical oddity. I’m not sure what to make of this but it’s extremely puzzling.

Update: I’m told that this event, and the International Championship don’t have a random draw at all, it’s strictly by seeding. In this case, indeed, Ding was always going to play Zhao, should they both win their first match, with the winner to play Xiao should he win his first two matches. So, unlikely as it seemed at first, there is an explanation to the above oddity.

This is Worldsnooker report

Zhao Xintong defeated Ding Junhui for the first time in his career, winning 5-3 to reach the last 32 of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Defeat for Ding sees him drop out of the world’s top 16 for the first time since April 2016. On that occasion he returned to the world’s top echelon by going on an epic run to the Crucible final, where he was runner-up to Mark Selby.

Ding is currently in 9th position in the world rankings. However, due to the two-year rolling format, he loses the £150,000 he earned by winning the 2017 World Open, which is the corresponding event on the calendar. That was the last time Ding won a ranking title, when he defeated Kyren Wilson 10-3 in the final.

The main contenders to replace Ding in the world’s top 16 are Yan Bingtao and Joe Perry. Yan is currently in pole position in the latest provisional rankings and looks likely to oust Ding as Chinese number one.

Zhao came into today having lost all four of his previous meetings with legendary 13-time ranking event winner Ding. The 22-year-old reached his maiden ranking semi-final at last year’s China Championship. That run saw him beat the likes of Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins on his way to the last four.

Ding had looked set to take the opening frame today after a break of 70 had left his opponent requiring a snooker. However, Zhao extracted the foul he needed and eventually edged the frame on the black. They then traded the next three frames to head into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.

When they returned a break of 66 saw Zhao regain the lead at 3-2, before he claimed the sixth frame on the black to move one from victory.

Ding battled on and kept himself in it at 4-3. However, Zhao got himself over the line to secure a momentous victory. He will face another compatriot, Xiao Guodong in the last 32.

Zhao said: “It was a strange match because I think he played better and had more decent breaks. I felt nervous throughout the game because of the crowd. On the other hand Ding was relaxed. Towards the end I think he felt a bit edgy.

“Guangzhou is a city I know well so I’m feeling comfortable, especially as this is the venue where I reached my first semi-final. I had dinner with Xiao Guodong the other day. He is another top Chinese player that I know very well.”

World Champion Judd Trump secured a 5-0 whitewash defeat of Mike Dunn to book his place in the last 32.

The Ace in the Pack has now won his last 14 matches in ranking competition. That streak includes tournament wins at the International Championship and the Crucible. His last ranking event loss came against Robbie Williams at the China Open back in April.

Trump said: “Hopefully I can do the job here. I have never won this tournament so it is a new challenge to try and do well in this one.

“We are still early in the season. Everyone is fighting for confidence and you want to be that player in form coming to all of the events. It is about keeping the momentum going for me. I don’t want to drop off before events like the UK Championship and the Masters come around.”

World number eight Kyren Wilson was also a whitewash victor, defeating Robbie Williams 5-0.

Wilson suffered an agonising 6-5 loss against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the recent Shanghai Masters having led 5-1. However, there were no signs of a dent to his confidence. The Warrior fired in breaks of 81, 101, 116 and 53 on his way to this evening’s win.

Recent Shanghai Masters runner-up Shaun Murphy continued his fine run of form with a 5-3 win over Yuan Sijun. While Australia’s Neil Robertson defeated Zhao Jianbo 5-1.

For full results click here.

No quotes from Ding then, yet every time Ronnie loses the press wants to hear from him, and I’m sure it will be the same this season for Judd. Oh well …

China Championship 2019 – Day 1

There weren’t many surprises at the China Championship today.

The wildcard round saw Zhao Jianbo and Pang Juxu qualify for the tournament proper. Zhao beat Ali Carter in Shanghai earlier this month, and Pang Juxu impressed me inSheffield last April. Nothing unexpected there. Pang was beaten by Tom ford later today, but Zhao is through to the last 64: his last 128 opponent, Ken Doherty withdrew.

The held-over matches saw all the top seeds progress, quite comfortably in most cases. Mark Selby though needed eight frames, but scored heavily in those he won. The only close match was the one involving Yan Bingtao: the experienced Mei Xiwen lead most of the match that went to a decider. Yan had two matches to play today; his last 64 match also went the distance as he needed to come from 4-2 down to beat Sam Baird 5-4.

There were a number of very close last 64 matches today as you can see here on

here is the report by Worldsnooker:

Defending champion Mark Selby saw off a strong challenge from world number 86 Chen Feilong to progress on day one of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Three-time Crucible winner Selby picked up the title last year after outlasting 30-time ranking event winner John Higgins to win a gruelling final 10-9.

That was Selby’s most recent ranking event victory. His last three have all come in China and seven of his 15 career ranking titles have been won on Chinese soil.

Selby took the opening frame of today’s heldover tie thanks to a break of 53. However, consecutive frames from Chen saw the Chinese cueman take a surprise 2-1 lead.

From there Selby moved his game up a gear. The Jester from Leicester fired in breaks of 53, 108, 66 and 137 to claim four of the next five frames and secure the 5-3 win. He will face Lu Ning in the next round.

After the game Selby credited part of his impressive record on Chinese soil to his friend Bobby Lee who he travels with.

Selby said: “Snooker can be a lonely place at times. There are a lot of tournaments and there is a lot of travelling. When I do come to China I have my good friend Bobby who lives out here. To have a companion helps to keep me relaxed and keeps my mind off snooker when I’m not playing well. When I am back home I can overanalyse everything. I think it is down to Bobby why my record in China is so good.

“I feel like I am playing better than last season. If you don’t get the results that doesn’t count for anything though. I feel good on the table and I feel like I am going to score every time I get a chance. I just need to get those few wins under my belt.”

John Higgins secured his place in the last 32 with a 5-1 demolition of Andrew Higginson.

Scotland’s four-time World Champion Higgins has enjoyed an eventful season so far. He won the World Cup alongside Stephen Maguire and was runner-up to Maguire at the recent Six Red World Championship in Bangkok. Next up for Higgins this week is a last 32 clash with China’s Li Hang.

World Champion Judd Trump eased past Thai legend James Wattana by a 5-1 scoreline. While Wales’ 22-time ranking event winner Mark Williams defeated compatriot Kishan Hirani 5-1.

What Mark Selby said regarding how Bobby Lee’s presence is helping him is interesting. Judd Trump credited his brother Jack’s support for his last season successes, Mark Allen decided to walk away from coaches but to have someone close to him as a travel companion. New trend?